July 1, 2015 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Political magazine editor finally freed

Reporters Without Borders is relieved by the release of Bheki Makhubu, the editor of the political news magazine The Nation, and calls for him to be compensated for the time spent in prison on an absurd contempt of court charge. Swaziland’s supreme court freed him and human right lawyer Thulani Maseko on appeal yesterday, ruling that they were “wrongly convicted” and that the original judgment was “unsustainable.” “We are delighted to learn that Bheki Makhubu is out of prison and we welcome the supreme court’s decision,” said Cléa Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk. “Makhubu just did his job as a journalist so he should never have been convicted and should be compensated for the past year in prison. We also hope that the supreme court’s ruling will be seen as a precedent that protects Swaziland’s journalists from abusive prosecution in the future.” “I am very relieved to be out,” Makhubu told Reporters Without Borders. “I'm hoping there is a lesson learned there and that we understand now what it means to have a constitution. It is not just a paper, it is a living thing. I am hoping this makes Swaziland a better place and that we are all winners in the end.” He said he wanted to resume editing his magazine. “I don't know another trade. I will go back to the paper. I don't expect everything to be smooth but I hope it won't go to these extremes again. Writing and calling leadership to account is part of constitutional state.” Charged with contempt of court for criticizing the judicial system, Makhubu and Maseko were sentenced to two years in prison in July 2014 after a trial marked by procedural abuses and gratuitous humiliation. They were tried by one of the judges they criticized in their articles. Photo: Bheki Makhubu leaving the prison, ©The Swazi Observer